Shugaleev / Kononchenko / Filonenko: The body you are calling...

+375 091208 2334 The body you are calling is currently not available

+375: phone country code for Belarus

09-12.08: four days of protests post presidential elections 2020 in Belarus, during which brutal mass arrests by the militarized enforcement, severe beatings and tortures in detention facilities took place.

23.34: article of the Administrative Code of the Republic of Belarus “Violation of the procedures for organizing or holding mass events”, which became denominative for over 30.000 Belarusians.

The body you are calling is currently not available: the original word this widely known “out of reach” auto-response contains is THE PARTY (the number) — which sounds similar to THE BODY. Some time back, when I did not speak English well, I genuinely thought that the robotic voice indeed says “the body”. This combination of digits, which visually resembles a phone number, and this auto-response are a trigger of the first days post 2020 elections in Belarus. Mobile/internet connection was down those days, so calling friends to find out if all was well was possible very late at night or early in the morning only. Whenever someone was out of reach, the phrase “The party you are calling is currently not available” would become full of fearsome prospects.

Entry point for this statement was in the feeling of guilt, similar to the “survival guilt” described by psychologists who worked with Holocaust survivors. It was also in the shock of what followed: interviews of people who went through detentions seemed surreal, and one could barely process the circumstances these people were describing, like “...we spent roughly four hours on our knees, with foreheads to the ground, and then they took us to the courtroom…”

Video: Igor Shugaleev/Alexandra Kononchenko
Performance: Igor Shugaleev
Music: Alexandra Filonenko